Tag Archives: Journey

Inca Trail – To Do Or Not To Do? – Journey In Peru

Deciding to travel to Peru from Ireland or Europe can be a big deal especially as the price of the flight is often quite staggering and especially so during peak season. The lure of Machu Picchu, now a World Wonder and famous UNESCO heritage site of the lost Inca civilisation, captures the imagination to the extent that travellers often sign up for the Inca Trail that leads there without ever having done this type of thing before.

There are some important factors to consider before signing up to undertake some days of trekking in Peru. Firstly, I will outline, I have been to Peru twice and have even lived quite close to the Inca Trail but have not done the hike itself. I had my own reasons for this.

Two important factors to consider are, your fitness level and your adjustment to being at higher altitude than usual.

If you excersise a lot, have good stamina, are used to hiking, especially for long durations then possibly you will be more equipped for spending a couple of days of hiking the Inca Trail. If you have not experienced the thrill of hiking in hills and mountains why not join a group in your local area, who are skilled in guiding you and see if you enjoy the experience. Your expensive holiday should definitely be one that you fully enjoy.

If you have already lived in high altitude environments then you will know your bodies adjustment and reaction to this. If you have not experienced being at high altitude it is very important to educate yourself on the symptoms and effects that can occur. You really don’t know until you go, how this will effect you. It has no bearing on age or fitness level.

Machu Picchu (2430m asl) is actually at a much lower altitude level than cities such as Cuzco and Puno for example. It is best to acclimatise slowly by spending a few days in high altitude before attempting hiking treks that take you further away from access to medical care.

Always heed the signs of altitude sickness and report to your guide if travelling in a group. Guides should be trained in health and safety. Tour companies usually have these saftey guidelines well out-lined for their clients.

Peru is an amazing country with so much to offer. Machu Picchu may be its crowning glory for tourists but there is so much more to discover such as the Amazon area, Lake Titicaca and its floating reed islands and Uros civilisation, Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, Cuzco City once the capital of the Incas and Arequipa’s volcanoes and architecture.

Floating Reed Islands and Uros People on Lake Titicaca

Floating Reed Islands and Uros People on Lake Titicaca

Many people travel solo and do the back-packer thing which can be less luxurious and less expensive, while many others take advantage of an organised tour which take you much more quickly around the vast circuit of treasures in a shorter space of time.

Arequipa Peru Volcano

Arequipa Peru Volcano

Trekking and hiking can be a lot of fun and brings a sense of achievement and opportunity for bonding with fellow trekkers. Whatever you decide, be safe, be well and choose the option that will make your travel experience the most enjoyable for you.

If you do consider trekking the Inca Trail have some consideration for the ones dedicated to carrying your back-pack. This is a service that is provided for travellers within tour groups. I have spoken with one young man who did this work for a while before he studied for the hospitality industry. His recollection of carrying the heavy back-packs of travellers was not the most joyous. So put yourself in the shoes of others and pack as lightly as possible.

Enjoy your trip. If you have enjoyed my blog and this post and found it particularly useful why not repay me by sharing the post or leaving a comment.

© Caroline Cunningham – Author of Wild Star Landing and Journey In Peru

 

One Direction – Journey In Peru

I said goodbye to my companions who had travelled with me from Ollantaytambo. They were heading straight to Lima from Cuzco airport. We kept in touch by text until they stepped aboard their plane.

On my final night I treated myself to a room in what was considered to be a posh hotel in Cuzco. My companions told me it was the chain in which ‘One Direction’ (band) had stayed when touring Lima. The room I was shown however, had a dismal view of an internal concrete chamber. I enquired if there could be another option available. The staff were reassuring and asked if I could wait twenty minutes. I was astounded by the outcome after being escorted to my room. I had been given the Presidential Suite with a view of the entire Plaza De Armas of Cuzco!

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

I was so thrilled I took photos of the room and sent them to my friends saying ‘I think I’m ‘One Direction’!’ As I sat in amazement looking out the window at the stunning view of the Inca capital my brain grappled with the reward it was receiving.

Cuzco City Peru

Cuzco City Peru

I most definitely had been lured by some other-worldly force, to visit this country of Peru. I had written uncontrollably from the moment of my first arrival, the year previous to this, completing my first ever novel. I had subsequently stepped into the pages of my own book, having created a curiosity in terms of a sequel.

Fact and fiction had become inter-twined. I yearned, as much as Kitty Clinch or any other fictional character, for an adventure of my own. What makes a heroine? Is it the things she would do for love, real love? And does anyone on this planet know what that truly is? I can safely say there are a great many people, men as well as women, aching to know the answer to this question. And of the love that lies within, can it ever find you, if you feign defeat against the haunting conflict of your past?

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

The view from my presidential suite pulsed with a sensation of terrific reality. Was I proud of Kitty Clinch or was it that she was proud of me? For four months I had observed her whilst sitting at a tiny desk in my rented bedroom in Dublin, with a hot water bottle on my lap and the cold breeze nipping at my fingers as I typed beside a draughty window.

Cuzco Capital Of The Incas

Cuzco Capital Of The Incas

Incredibly, this character had inspired me to arrive at this grand position of observation. The whole city of Cuzco was spread out before my eyes. Christ stood, with outstretched arms, between the elevated Inca temples of the Sun and the Moon. The memories of my visits to both of these locations were cancelling each other out with the intensity of opposite emotions. I felt like an Inca Chief standing there and I’m proud to be the teller of the tale.

Christ in Cuzco

Christ in Cuzco

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Dear Reader,

I am preparing to publish my blog as a mini-novel and introduction to my original novel inspired by my first Journey In Peru. I am really grateful to the readers who have taken time to ‘like’ my posts and especially those who have contacted me tell me how much they have enjoyed my writing. Your comments are very much appreciated. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of ‘Journey In Peru’ please stay tuned in the coming weeks and all will be revealed.

Kind regards,

Kitty Clinch (oops!) Caroline Cunningham

Peruvian Nights – Journey In Peru

I may have been the most cautious adventurer to visit this Peruvian town but my caution paid direct dividends in the best of friendships. Sure I could have followed other paths to chicha house’s or dens of lucid smoking. In a far away conversation I recalled the mention of ayahuasca.

I made a determined decision during my time in Peru to take advantage of this fresh start. No people pleasing habits (of any kind) to be entertained! I preferred reliable, natural company and took my time getting to know this new culture and language so as to be respectful to those who were here to help me on my way.

Night Of The Perseids Peru

Night Of The Perseids Peru

NIght Of The Perseids

NIght Of The Perseids

I had watched, listened and learned and when the time was right, I was ready for lots of fun. The musicians from the night of the Perseids at Misha Wasi were about to perform at a local hotel. Henry and I went along to part-take of red wine and listen to the sublime instrumentals of this group, who have since disbanded to continue their wanderings of the Earth. They had an audience of tourists from around the world along with some familiar faces of local folk and non-Peruvians, like myself.

Journey in Peru

Journey in Peru

Journey In Peru

Journey In Peru

Afterwards, I had agreed to go dancing at the ‘Inka Disco’ with my friends from the Coffee Tree. It was a tiny venue in one of the Inca built dwellings, so typified with large granite boulders evident in the internal walls. Seeing the coloured disco lights swirling across them was a surreal and cave-like experience. The music was not my favourite, hip-hop not being of my teen-age generation but I hopped and swayed around the small disco floor as lively as the rest of them. Half way through the night, the music switched to a traditional style. It was beautiful, as I had the opportunity to experience the bachata style with my good friend Alex.

Inka Disco Peru

Inka Disco Peru

We danced all night until eventually, there were no more people in the room, except the four of us. The music showed no signs of stopping as long as we were there. I was the weakest link. At two a.m. I was wondering when it might be time to go home.

Night Time Ollantaytambo Peru

Night Time Ollantaytambo Peru

Late night Peru

Late night Peru

As I entered my room on the rooftop of my lodgings, I gazed in the direction of the Fortalezza and shuddered a little in the cool breeze. In less than a week I would no longer have this splendid view, the mountains that hugged me closely here would be replaced by distant lower lying ones and the stars would be up-side down once more in their arrangements.

I gripped the moment to my heart knowing the exact measure of it could never be maintained just glimpsed through memories and their transposition to these meagre words. These were my Peruvian nights which I so cherished.

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

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Culture On Street Corners – Journey In Peru

My silent quest with regards to my journey in Peru had been torn to shreds. In the end it was for the very best. My remaining weeks in the country were more precious now. It was unlikely I could afford to dream up another wild reason to return.

Conacky - Crafter

Conacky – Crafter

I handed in my notice to Alex in The Coffee Tree Cafe where I had been helping out a few days a week. He made me a coffee and I proceeded to explain to him the concept of a travel blog and introduced myself as a travel writer. He agreed to be interviewed in Spanish the following day.

Art Of Conacky - Ollantaytambo

Art Of Conacky – Ollantaytambo

In this way I opened myself to knowing the people of this town and its culture in a deeper way. One evening, at the corner near my accommodation, Conacky (the craft maker) called me over to introduce me to his parents who were visiting from Lima.

Art in Ollantaytambo Peru

Art in Ollantaytambo Peru

He introduced me as a writer and told me that his father, Louis, is a poet. This was a rare privilege. It is not often I meet a poet, although I suspect there are many secret ones about, especially in Ireland.

Family of Conacky

Family of Conacky

I listened hard to hear Louis’ poetic words. My Spanish was not advanced enough to understand the depth of his words. But I understood the depth of feeling that he conveyed. He was rooted in the nature and spirit of things. I took off promising to return within minutes. In my bedroom I booted up my laptop, took hold of pen and paper and began to translate, with help of internet, a few of my simplest poems. I ran back to the corner waving the paper in my hands.

Author and Conacky - Peru

Author and Conacky – Peru

We stood side by side as I recited my poems in Spanish. He thanked me and indicated that he understood. I agreed to return the following evening with more poetry in hand. We had some quiet conversations on the topic of writing over the coming days, until he and his wife had to return to their home in Lima. We made a parting promise to continue our writing and to share it openly.

Wild Star Landing

Wild Star Landing

Blog Awards Ireland 2015 Best Blog Article

Blog Awards Ireland 2015 Best Blog Article

©Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

Wild Star Landing Blog has been long-listed as ‘Best Travel Blog’ in Irish Blog Awards 2015 and shortlisted in same category in 2016

Best Travel Blog in Irish Blog Awards 2015 - Long List

Best Travel Blog in Irish Blog Awards 2015 – Long List

Sexy Woman – Journey In Peru

In Cuzco there is a tourist ticket that covers a multitude of Inca sites both in the city and in The Sacred Valley, including the ‘Fortalezza’ in Ollantaytambo. It is excellent value to avail of this ticket which saves on individual entry fees at each location.

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

You also have the option of taking a tour with a guide on a bus which takes you to all the Cuzco sites listed on this ticket. These tickets and tours are on sale at numerous tourist offices throughout the city centre. The tour bus is very convenient but if you have more time the Sacsayhuaman site is deserving of a longer visit.

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

‘Sexy Woman’ is how the English speaking visitors often refer to this UNESCO heritage site elevated high above the city. The name is derived from the Quechua language the first part meaning ‘full’ or ‘satisfied’ and the second part of the name is thought to refer to a falcon. It is also believed to have been an important site of sun worship in Inca times.

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

Sacsayhuaman Cuzco Peru

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The enormous boulders of rock situated in labyrinth style reaching into the heavenly blue sky creates a striking visual impression. Looking down into the deep bowl of the city you get a glimpse of what convinced the Incas that this was the centre of their world. Mountains graced the surrounding area and created the perfect protective space within for dwellers, at least until the arrival of the infamous Pizarro who came to conquer.

Wild Star Landing - Journey In Peru

Wild Star Landing – Journey In Peru

The city sparkled a shiny miniature of itself, with the sun bouncing its rays from glassy surfaces. The low rise organisation of buildings and parks dotted with leafy trees and fountains all seemed so particular and fun to the tourist eye. Close by, a statue of Catholic Christ stood large with outstretched arms overlooking the city dwellers adding to the sense of sanctuary.

Christ Statue Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue Cuzco Peru

Cuzco - Former Inca Capital Peru

Cuzco – Former Inca Capital Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Plaza De Armas Cuzco Peru

Every city has its darker side and down below despite the busy endeavours of people selling their wares there were stories of anguish that would break a heart to hear them. Hence the amount of volunteer ‘not for profit’ businesses in the area. A salary is not a profit, I didn’t understand this concept originally. In any case thanks to these charity businesses, international volunteers are in no short supply, giving hope to many.

City Tour Cuzco Peru

City Tour Cuzco Peru

City Tour Cuzco Peru

City Tour Cuzco Peru

I took the city tour in the company of a Romanian traveler whom I befriended on my second, slightly longer visit to Cuzco.

Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue Night Time Cuzco Peru

Christ Statue Night Time Cuzco Peru

©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)

You Never Know – Journey In Peru

You never know what’s outside your door until you open it and venture out into the light of day. This is especially so when you are traveling in a distant land, with everything so new and exciting.

A child-like state automatically takes me over when I am in the surrounds of the beauty of a culture so rich as that of Peru. The only country in the world that would find strong competition in my eyes would be India, which I dearly love.

As a solo female traveler, I preferred to travel to the sanctity of the Sacred Valley of Cuzco’s Ollantaytambo. Perhaps I will one day graduate to solo travel in India, the first country that made me fall in love with every part of it.

Afuera La Porta

Afuera La Porta

On one particular morning in my new lodgings in Ollantaytambo Peru, I opened the door to find two labourers resting with planks of wood. They made such a striking pose as they stood there smiling. I ran to get my camera and asked them if I could photograph them. They nodded their approval, smiling all the while.

 

El Horno - Ollantaytambo Peru

El Horno – Ollantaytambo Peru

Another day I came upon a man at the adjoining bar, busily stomping bare-footed in a pile of wet mud. He did not mind me stopping to watch. ‘What are you making?’ I asked him in Spanish. ‘El horno!’ was his reply. Pizza’s are popular in Peru, more especially with tourists, and where there is business to be made our Peruvian friends are not slow to act. Clay oven’s were particularly popular. And this man was making an addition to the services offered by his funky ‘Quechua Bar’ (the one that plays the Bob Marley Music and the Spanish version of ‘The Streets Have No Name’).

 

 

 
My neighbour grabbed a bucket and began to sprinkle clumps of black strands into the mix of mud. ‘What is it?’ I asked. ‘Hair!’, his reply. ‘Human hair?’ said I. ‘Si,’ he affirmed, ‘it helps the mud to stick together.’ I enquired if there was any other spiritual belief attached to the practice of using the hair, but no , it was purely a practical solution.

Making an Oven with Human Hair - Peru

Making an Oven with Human Hair – Peru

Making an Oven - Peru

Making an Oven – Peru

Making an Oven - Ollantaytambo Peru

Making an Oven – Ollantaytambo Peru

I delighted in such happenings for my collection of childlike wonders. The fact that I was making these discoveries through learning a new language added to the experience. To learn like a child is such a lesson in life. It is a humbling experience and can be vulnerable too. Fortunately, I was surrounded by kindly souls for the most of my visit. My adventures into the lessons of adulthood however, were to be treacherous in comparison.

Making a Pizza Oven - Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo

Making a Pizza Oven – Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo

Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo Peru

Quechua Bar Ollantaytambo Peru

© Caroline Cunningham Author of Wild Star Landing (Blog).

Her Name Was ‘Smile’ – Journey In Peru

‘Where are you going friend?’. These were the words she spoke to me every single day I crossed the bridge from the ‘arty’ side of town. Her smile was infectious. In my new neighbourhood I realised I should introduce myself. I crouched down beside her, as she sat outside her craft shop, and practiced my Spanish lines, which I had rehearsed for such introductions.

Her Name Was Smile - Journey In Peru

Her Name Was Smile – Journey In Peru

She told me her name. I had to ask her to repeat it. I didn’t’ t like to ask a second time. It was a name I had not heard before. I had a go at saying it. She nodded, but I wasn’t sure I had said it correctly. To me it sounded like the Spanish word for ‘smile’. So I thought to myself, it suited her and in my own mind from then on, that was her name, ‘Smile’ (in Spanish of course).

I had to get used to her asking me that awkward question however, everyday. It’s like that other question, ‘how are you?’ The answer is supposed to be positive. ‘I’m so fxcking alive the world just can’t keep up with me!!’ Isn’t that one answer you might just like to give?

In honesty however, that is not how most folk feel on an everyday basis. And so we lie, against any inclined bone in our body to be honest about things, even with strangers.

‘Where was I going?’ Some days in that Peruvian town, even though for me it was a destination in itself, I just wasn’t sure, as I was about to cross that lob-sided wooden bridge. All I knew was this, ‘I have to move!’ Because if I stop moving for a considerable length of time I get in serious trouble.

Luckily I had some occupation there and I did my best to invent others. I had made some friends and I had plenty to learn about life.

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

Highway traffic through World UNESCO Town of Ollantaytabmo Peru

One day I decided to reverse the questioning. I asked my smiling friend about her circumstance of sitting at the corner of this bridge where, ‘bizarrely’, in this UNESCO Inca heritage town of Ollantaytambo, heavy articulated vehicles and buses barged through on a regular basis. ‘Does it affect your health?’ I asked. She smiled, of course, and just shook her head. It was not a problem.

I figured she had a strong mental attitude to life and I was just a meddler from Ireland who had some stuff to learn. A week later however, I noticed she was not at her post. I enquired from the person minding her shop. My smiling friend was ill and resting. ‘ I tried to resist that gloating thought of ‘perhaps I was right after all’. I will never know.

So I got used to her question most days. ‘Where are you going friend?’ Until one day I had to admit to her that I was going very far away. Back to Ireland. I will never forget that day I said goodbye to those wonderful people in Ollantaytambo. Everyone of them broke my heart completely. Her words to me I will not forget. ‘You must return. And when you return you come here to find me. And if I am no longer in this place, you ask the next person where I am. And you come to say hello.’

I how I wish I could go there now.

Dear reader if indeed you do happen to be Richard Branson reading this little wee article, if you have a seat on a jet, or the galactic vehicle, do get in touch, as I’m sure I could parachute from space, if I had to, and therefore cause the least inconvenience. And P.S. I have dear friend in New Zealand who would love to travel also but I doubt he will parachute as he has bad arthritis in his knees. (o:

Crossing the Bridge in Ollantaytambo Peru

Crossing the Bridge in Ollantaytambo Peru

©Caroline Cunningham Author and Creator of the Title ‘Wild Star Landing’